‘One earthquake’, India’s Defence Minister Pranab Mukherjee observed recently, ‘cannot alter the history of the last 50 years’. Yet the agreement between India and Pakistan to open ﬁve points along the line of control which separates their areas of Kashmir, for the ﬁrst time since 1947, is clearly momentous. Since then, the carefully timed bomb attacks in New Delhi have threatened to validate Mukherjee’s claim and abort the frantic search for peace.
Nowhere is the urgency greater than in Pakistan where the earthquake, which killed more than 73,000 people and left three million homeless, has raised expectations of a genuine national consensus and a comprehensive peace settlement with India. International giving to help those affected by the disaster, though still far short of UN targets, could, some believe, also ease popular hostility to the west and set the tone for a new chapter in Pakistan’s global relations.